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In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning

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To cope with his dread, John Kitzhaber opened his leather-bound journal and began to write.
It was a little past 9 on the morning of Nov. 22, 2011. Gary Haugen had dropped his appeals. A Marion County judge had signed the murderer's death warrant, leaving Kitzhaber, a former emergency room doctor, to decide Haugen's fate. The 49-year-old would soon die by lethal injection if the governor didn't intervene.
Kitzhaber was exhausted, having been unable to sleep the night before, but he needed to call the families of Haugen's victims.
"I know my decision will delay the closure they need and deserve," he wrote.
The son of University of Oregon English professors, Kitzhaber began writing each day in his journal in the early 1970s. The practice helped him organize his thoughts and, on that particular morning, gather his courage.
Kitzhaber first dialed the widow of David Polin, an inmate Haugen beat and stabbed to death in 2003 while already serving a life sentence fo…

Charleston shooting suspect Dylann Roof waives right to jury trial

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof, the suspect charged with fatally shooting nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., last June, is seeking to waive his right to a jury trial, according to court papers.

Lawyers for Roof, 22, of Columbia, S.C., indicated the suspect's intent in a notice they filed Thursday in U.S. District Court. The move would leave Roof's future up to a judge.

"Pursuant to this order, the defendant hereby states that he is willing to waive jury, and to be tried and sentenced by the court," read the notice filed by Roof lawyers David Bruck, based in Lexington, Va., and Michael O'Connell, based in Mount Pleasant, S.C.

The notice also indicated, though, that a lawyer for the federal government has informed Roof's lawyers that that "the government will not consent to waive jury at either stage of this case."

Roof's trial is set to begin Nov. 7. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

On June 17, 2015, Roof staged a massacre at the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church during a Bible study session. Among those who died were Pastor Clementa Pinckney. It is the oldest AME church in the South and was cofounded by slave revolt organizer Denmark Vesey.

Officials have said Roof targeted his alleged victims because they were black.

Source: USA Today, June 9, 2016


Dylann Roof Seeks Trial By Judge

Roof seeks to waive his Constitutional right, but federal prosecutors are objecting.

Accused Charleston massacre suspect Dylann Roof wants to waive his Constitutional right to a trial by a jury of his peers, instead asking that his fate be determined by a federal judge.

The accused is a white supremacist who is alleged to have killed nine African-American churchgoers in Charleston, S.C. last June. President Obama eulogized the victims, and the Justice Department is pursuing the death penalty in the case. In addition to first-degree murder counts, Roof also faces hate crime charges. His federal trial is scheduled to begin in November, while his state trial is expected to begin in 2017.

In court documents filed Thursday, Roof and his attorneys asked to waive his right to a jury trail. Those same documents indicate prosecutors are objecting to his request. If forced to face a jury, Roof's attorney David Bruck said he may ask the judge to have jurors selected from the Charleston area and not statewide

Roof is alledged to have entered the Emanual AME Church in downtown Charleston on June 17, 2016, took part in Bible study for an hour, and then opened fire on those there. When all was said and done, nine people -- including a state senator -- were dead, and three others were injured.

The incident has touched a nerve nationwide in the year since the shooting. South Carolina removed the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of its state capitol. Other states have debated removing the confederate flag from their state flag, it has been removed from U.S. Capitol grounds, and the National Park Service has stopped selling Confederate items at National Parks, notably Civil War battlefields. Most recently, Washington National Cathedral removed stained glass windows with the flag.

Source: US News, Curt Mills, June 10, 2016

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